What do you do when you can’t get along with one of your coworkers? Does it really matter? Could you just not get along and mind your own business? I suppose you could, but where’s the fun in that?
Your coworkers have a huge role in your happiness and engagement at work.
One of Gallup’s questions on their famous Q12 survey is “Do you have a ‘best friend’ at work?” because they understand how important friendship at work can be.
Specifically, they found that people who reported having a best friend at work were:
- 43% more likely to report having received praise or recognition for their work in the last seven days.
- 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development.
- 35% more likely to report coworker commitment to quality.
- 28% more likely to report that in the last six months, someone at work has talked to them about their progress.
- 27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important.
- 27% more likely to report that their opinions seem to count at work.
- 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.
These results clearly show that companies should be doing everything they can to develop those friendships at work.
Similarly, in one of Officevibe’s infographics about friends at work, we found that:
- 70% of employees say friends at work is the most crucial element to a happy working life.
- 58% of men would refuse a higher paying job if it meant not getting along with coworkers. 74% of women said the same.
- 50% of employees with a best friend at work reported that they feel a strong connection with their company.
So, clearly having friends at work is an important part of enjoying it.
But, of course, this is all easier said than done. You don’t always get along with the people you work with.
I’ve always been fascinated with the way workplaces operate.
You can choose who you’re friends with outside of work, but in the workplace, your “friends” are chosen for you.
I’ve always found that to be one of the most interesting social experiments.
Let’s take a bunch of people from different walks of life who have never met before, put them together, and tell them that they have to collaborate, get along, and become friends.
Now especially, with all of the focus on culture, team building, and being one big happy family, we all have to get along.
But is that really realistic? It sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.
Your coworkers can cause you damage
A team of psychologists surveyed 1,100 employees as part of research for their book about dealing with coworkers.
They found that roughly 80% reported moderate to severe stress as a result of working with a difficult coworker, boss, or subordinate.
In another study led by Arie Shirom at Tel Aviv University, which looked at how coworkers affected health, they found some startling results.
The researchers tracked 820 adults for 20 years, starting with a health exam in 1988 to establish a baseline.
Over those 20 years, they were constantly being asked questions about their boss, their coworkers, and their work environment, all while being monitored for their health.
What they found was:
The factor most closely linked to health was the support of coworkers.
According to the study, workers with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study.
So the stress that comes from dealing with coworkers that you might not like has a huge affect on your health.
This is important for you to understand, because realistically there will be coworkers that you don’t enjoy working with, but you have to try hard to get along with them. More than anything, for the sake of your health.
How to get along with your coworkers?
There's a start to every relation. Here are a few tips to get along with new coworkers that will help to prevent conflict.
1. Show interest in them
People love to talk about their passion. In order to build positive relations with your coworkers, take the time to get to know what are their interests outside of work. However, be careful not to overstep boundaries.
Examples of questions to ask to get to know your coworkers:
- What made you choose your field of work?
- Why did you choose to work here?
- What is one skill you're trying to develop?
- What are your interests outside of work?
- What are your career goals?
2. Reach out to them
If you want to have a positive relation with coworkers, don't wait for them to make the first move. When you show interest, your coworkers are more likely to have a positive perception of you.
The 30 minutes you take to have a coffee with a new coworker is time well invested if it helps to lay foundations for positive relation that will last.
3. Give positive feedback
Employees love to know when they are doing good work, so don't hesitate to give positive feedback when it's due. Even when feedback is negative, you should find a way to make it constructive so the person has an opportunity to grow from it.
4. Be open to new ideas
Everyone has a different journey and experiences often shape the approach to certain situations. In discussions, try to remain as open to new ideas as possible.
If you are perceived as an open person, your coworkers will be more comfortable being around you and expressing their feelings. This reduces the chances of conflict because you will be able to discuss together when disagreements happen.
5. Be clear when you communicate
Disagreements sometimes are sometimes the result of misunderstandings between two colleagues. To prevent this type of conflict from arising, you should make sure that you leave as little to interpretation as possible.
With the shift to distributed work, text message interactions between colleagues are more frequent than they used to be. If you feel like you are unable to express yourself in a message, do not hesitate to call your coworkers. The extra time you take to communicate is worth it since it may prevent conflict from arising.
Tips to deal with a coworker when conflict arises
Here are a few tips that you can use to deal with a coworker you can’t get along with.
1. Say what’s on your mind
The worst thing you can do is just bottle up all your feelings and walk around all day angry.
It’s important, in a polite way, to tell the coworker how you feel. Be honest, straightforward, and explain why you feel the way you do.
A good tip is to avoid any personal attacks and focus your message on the behavior, and how that behavior makes you feel.
For example, “When you interrupted me during the team meeting, that made me feel like you don’t respect my contributions”.
2. Never assume
Sometimes when we think we dislike a coworker, it’s for something that we’ve imagined in our heads. Making an assumption about a coworker is a dangerous thing to do.
Instead, ask questions to try and find common ground with a coworker.
3. Find something in common
Ideally, you want to have good relationships at work, so try to find ways that you guys can have things in common.
I bet if you try hard enough, you’ll find a common TV show or band that you both like.
4. Change your own behavior
You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself.
One of the best ways to try and fix a relationship with a coworker is by changing your own behavior. If you change, they’re likely to change too.
The best tool you have to change their behavior is to change yourself.
5. Be the bigger person
You need to be the bigger person and figure out a way to get along with this coworker.
The truth is, you don’t have time to deal with these things. Don’t let the stress of a coworker you can’t get along with ruin your life.
Learn how to get along with them for everyone’s sake.
6. Take the blame
This is related to being the bigger person, but a good strategy is to take the blame for their behavior.
For example, instead of saying something like “why do you always belittle me in meetings?”, say something like “I must have said something wrong during that meeting. Is there something you think I should have said instead?”
That will help strengthen your relationship.
7. Show empathy
Maybe when they snapped at you or shot down your idea in the meeting they were dealing with something personal?Sometimes, it’s more about them then it is about you…remember that.Show empathy to your coworkers and you might be surprised at how much more you like them.
As a last resort, if you really can’t get along with a coworker and you’ve tried to change but are unsuccessful, you can report them to your boss.
How to report it to your boss
When you get to the point where you need to report a coworker to your boss, you need to be prepared. You don’t want to be perceived by your boss as a whiner.
Here are a few important things to keep in mind if you’re reporting a coworker that you don’t like to your boss.
1. Show that you’ve tried
You should be able to clearly show that you’ve tried many different ways to get along with this coworker, but nothing seems to be working.
Your boss should get the impression that this is really the last resort.
2. Have a plan
Your boss will be much more receptive if you come prepared with a plan.Don’t make your boss do all the work for you, you want to come prepared with a solution that is fair for everyone. This will show good initiative to your boss.
3. Don’t get defensive
If your boss suggests something or starts asking about your behavior, don’t get defensive. Listen attentively and thank your boss for taking the time and energy to spend on this.